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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
In the movies, spook equipment equals high tech and futuristic, but the reality of the external product design design is often anything but. Product design will eventually no longer be an issue. This is one of those lists where as technology improves the items become less interesting, to the point where they disappear, as encryption technology becomes software only, as with the NSAs secure version of Google's Android OS. Nonetheless standard secure phones are still provided to government officials, by the NSA, the latest model being introduced in 2008 and with hardware that looks distinctly antiquated compared with consumer technology such as an iPhone. The odd one out in this list is the US/Soviet hotline, which is arguably as much a reaction against the time it took to decode secure messages, being introduced after the delays in doing so during the Cuban missile crisis.

9 secure phones

Despite the uninteresting name, these rectifiers are one of the most beautiful gadgets ever made. As a result they are often seen if films and are quintessential elements of mad scientist labs, yet few people could name them or know what they were used for. Invented at the beginning of the 20th Century, Mercury Arc Rectifiers were like spectacularly large versions of the Tubes in pre-transistor era electronics. They were used to convert electricity from alternating to direct current.

mercury arc rectifiers

For sheer baroque complexity of appearance, planetarium projectors are among the most amazing gizmos ever built. They range from enormous machines more than 20 ft. high to a soccer ball sized $300 home version.Their purpose is a bizarre reversal of a large optical telescope, taking an internal view of the the universe and projecting it on a dome, rather than creating a view from peering outside of one, but the aesthetic is somewhat similar. Another curious similarity is how much they look like some early satellites.Our personal favorites are the original Zeiss, Mark I and the truly amazing machine built by the Korkosz brothers for the, appropriately named, Seymour Planetarium.

16 incredible planetarium projectors

Algorithmic architecture uses computers to generate natural looking aperiodic forms that are are a revolutionary alternative to the extreme crystalline regularity of what has up to now been considered modern. The dreary exhibition of pre-fabricated architecture at New York's MOMA, has a couple of examples of algorithmic designs at its entrance, but that is where it stops. On entering it is an mixture of of the dated, High Tech style and dumbed down Mid-Century Modern boxes for Dwell magazine readers. If you really want to see what is happening at the cutting edge of architecture, look at some of these schemes. This list could go on forever. Drill down on some of the links and explore.

Algorithmic architecture

Carbon Fiber matches wood in terms of flexibility of form and surpasses steel in terms of strength. Because of this it is beginning to be used as a decorative item, replacing walnut in car dashboards, for example. This consciously decorative use can work well, but where carbon fiber is used for pseudo functional design, like the carbon fiber letter opener shown here, the choice is inappropriate and ridiculous.

8 pointless uses of carbon fiber

Crumbling hospitals are archetypal places of creepiness, because they are ironic. An hospital is a place that is supposed to be clean, from bedding to bathing to surgery and this has been exploited for dramatic effect in films from Jacob's Ladder to 12 Monkeys and the more recent Shutter Island.Abandoned hospitals are also a popular destination for urban explorers, so here I've picked the best examples I could find from records of their adventures on Flickr. But continue to have a look there for some other great shots.The set pieces are where a few pieces of furniture and medical equipment remain in a decaying room, to the extent that some of these are obviously staged from found objects, but they're no less impressive.

12 abandoned hospitals

Perhaps it’s because we sometimes take the things we see around us for granted and a technical drawing of its design shows the effort that went into it that I find these Nasa drawings so interesting. That in addition to the labels saying what things do. With that in mind, i included an diagram which isn’t really a blueprint, from a Apollo 15 press kit showing how they unpacked the lunar rover – for some reason I always wondered how they did that. I also cheated with a couple of NASA project images that aren’t from NASA to show how other companies were involved – such as Lockheed’s Hubble Telescope and Boeing’s drawings of the Saturn V configuration.

12 Nasa Blueprints

The earliest ejector seats were designed to save your life, but broke your back. Today the ultimate ejection seats are described as zero zero seats able to operate at zero altitude and zero airspeed. Ejection seats are interesting because they are the most extreme form of a commonplace design item - a chair.

12 ejector seats

Why absurd? Well, there is something particularly vulnerable about a piece of military hardware that can be rendered inactive by a group of boy scouts laying an iron bar sufficient to derail it. At the same time, the ordinary look of many steam trains seemed more robust than some of these tin can efforts. I chose this list because they are a design backwater with unusual looking phenotypes.

absurd armored trains

We tend to think of submarines as being a particularly 20th century object when we imagine the nuclear powered, nuclear missile carrying versions. Obviously however, they feature in the Jules Verne classic, ‘20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' and are, as such a definitive Victorian piece of technology, or to use the term currently in vogue, 'steampunk'.Although the idea of a submarine began as early as the 16th century, it was in the Victorian era that the modern cigar with periscope form was developed with France's Gymnote in 1889.Included here is a picture of the model of the Plongeur which was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in 1867. This was the actual item that Jules Verne saw and inspired the Nautilus in his seminal science fiction work, making it an historic item in the cultural history of technology.

victorian submarines

Ted Stevens was right, the Victorian Internet consisted, quite literally, of a ‘Network of Tubes'. Paris, London, Prague and Vienna had extensive networks of pneumatic tubes which delivered messages in capsules. In New York 5 million mail messages passed every day through an underground pneumatic system, and a network in Berlin delivered hot meals directly to people's homes suggesting that kitchens would no longer be needed in the future. Today these systems can still be purchased where they are used in places like hospitals where samples are passed between departments.

15 pneumatic message networks

If there is one kind of hammer that you don't want to get your thumb stuck under, its a steam hammer, a giant hellish machine that defined the industrial age.There are several claims to its invention in the mid 19th century, to hammer steel into shape and smash out impurities. One of these is Creusot, who exhibited a version at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1878.Looking at the Creusot Hammer, I would argue that it was the inspiration for the Eiffel tower, ten years later.Here are a variety of hammers including the mechanical or hydraulic versions that replaced steam, but still have the same titanic look.

10 massive steam hammers

The idea of uniform is that you all look the same, yet there is an ornathological variety of ceremonial military parade outfits, with as many brightly colored feathers. The images chosen here range from the Italian Carabinieri who are allowed to wear aftershave and sport outfits designed by Valentino, the French Foreign Legion’s sappers who have to have long beards and wear leather aprons and carry axes, 7 Dwarves style, Iranian police who look like criminals, Russian women soldiers who wear mini skirts, now that Putin has reinstated the infamous May Day parades and Greek soldiers whose traditional unfrms are similarly feminine. We added the UK Queen’s husband at the trooping of the color. Wearing a 3 foot high bearskin hat may be a familiar image, but its’ no less weird.

12 bizarre military parade uniforms

Bladerunner - so where are we now? Particularly where are all the artsy animated building facades?Here are 15 of our favorites, avoiding Vegas style tacky glitz. We have tried to include some of the more recent architectural projects where the media skin is part of the design itself, rather than merely a billboard. Media skins are often designed by specialist firms in concert with the main architect, such as Berlin's, excellent, Realities United, who worked on several of these projects.

15 Blade Runner Buildings

Here is a roundup of collectible boomboxes, currently being auctioned on ebay. The mannerist nature of 80s ghetto blasters could not be more different from today's minimalist trends in consumer audio gear, lead by Sony and Apple. Because of this, these devices now look obviously obsolete and different and are starting to become collectors items. Ugly, but interesting, and representative of their time, some are perfect examples of pointless feature driven design, something which still plagues software.

12 monster 80s boomboxes

A bicycle makes for an excellent machine even when stationary, something that is shown nowhere better than in the home-brew design phenomenon of bicycles and knife sharpeners. This is a design typology that spans continents and traces back to 19th century pedal powered machines. Here are our favorite examples from around the world.

12 Knife Bikes

There is something fantastically hellish about fiery steel manufacture, nothing seems more gigantic or obviously dangerous looking. The instruments used to transfer molten iron, steel and slag are massive solid items made of the same thing they contain in liquid form and are objects of wonder.Particularly interesting are the torpedo ladle railroad cars, which transfer hot metal from blast to oxygen furnaces. They are dramatic and interesting enough that despite their obscurity they are available in several forms for model railroads. Vote for your faves.

giant molten steel handling equipment

The history of the pressure suit from its origins in the 30s for high altitude pilots to space missions is one which perfectly encapsulates (no pun intended) all of the aspects of product design from craft to science. Aesthetically, the first pressure suit, created by the aviator Wiley Post in 1934, looks more like a deep sea diving one, just as deep sea diving inspired the fictional aesthetic for robots and space men, until the space race. But the Post suit is where the two design styles diverge, culminating in the Apollo mission suits which were produced in craft fashion by the seamstresses of bra manufacturer, Playtex after their proposal outperformed those submitted by engineering contractors.Pressure suits don't need to be air tight, apart from the helmet, because human skin is, they just need to be tight to stop your skin swelling. Those worn by pilots are usually different from astronauts, who also have to wear external layers of reflective insulation (separated by intermediate layers of non heat conducting material, exactly like modern loft insulation) and a protective skin against micro-meteors and abrasive dust. As well as all fabric pressure suits, there are rigid or partially rigid ones, such as some of the moon walk prototypes or space walk (EVA) ones which are hybrids of a rigid torso and flexible limbs. EVA and moon walk suits have a life support system as a backpack, while astronauts often carry theirs like a suitcase, as a backup in case cabin pressure fails.

pressure suits

Climbing walls are both functionally and aesthetically fascinating. They often have beautiful abstract shapes reminiscent of Kurt Schwitters Merzbau or are just plain intricate and impressive.Included in our collection here are interactive musical climbing walls, enormous artificial ice towers, surreal climbing forms and a huge climbing wall inside a disused Texan grain silo. Vote for your faves.

Great Climbing Walls

The original wireless network used pigeons. One of the worlds largest information firms, Reuters actually started out as a messaging service with carrier pigeons, they were used widely for messaging during the WW1 and even for aerial photography. The famous psychologist, Skinner worked on a guided missile which was to be controlled by live pigeons.

the pigeon net

Nothing less than human made lightning. The massive fields generated by resonance between pairs of stepped up induced capacitors create potential differences greater than the resistance of air between the coil and a nearby conductor. This allows fractal currents to flow as the air itself conducts and ionizes.Although Tesla coils are largely created for fun by dedicated enthusiasts, they originally had a real purpose in mind. Tesla figured that he could create a wireless electrical grid and went as far as to build a tower on Long Island that would be its first transmitter. The idea was never realized, however in Russia really large scale wireless power networks were actually tried, as can be seen in this list.Vote for your faves.

16 crazy tesla coils

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The fetish aspect of external, insect-like skeletons has made them a staple of science fiction. However, the utility is real, from the incredible Japanese Enryu rescue exoskeleton, which looks like a loader from the Aliens movie, to brain controlled limb enhancers for the para or quadraplegic.

A gallery of some of the most impressive control rooms, including the original NASA mission control, the Beatles recording studio, the NORAD nuclear war room, what is left of Chernobyl reactor 4 control and control rooms for TV, traffic, subways and particle accelerators.

Zoetropes, Phenakistoscopes and Praxinoscopes were the machines that formed the basis of modern day movie making. Here are some movies of these amazing machines in action, complete with some great modern interpretations.

Spot the man made fakery from the bizarre but real. For April Fools Day Oobject becomes Zoobject and is all about animals rather than machines, with a cunning cryptozoology quiz. Vote for your faves and click to see which are real or fake.

Getting out of the way of boats is a perennial problem that results in spectacular engineering, from the absolutely enormous retractable bridge in the Gulf of Corinth in Greece, to the beautiful bridge in Paddington Basin, London, which automatically curls itself into a ball, once a day.

No descriptions for this list, just rows of interesting false teeth. vote for your faves.

Vote for the worlds greatest elevator ride. The contenders include: John Portmans spectacular scenic hotel rides; a James Bond style elevator at the Mercedes Museum; a Chinese cliff face elevator; the construction workers elevator on the Burj Dubai, which is twice as high as the Empire State building; the elevator which climbs through the center of the giant Berlin Sea life aquarium and an enormous, futuristic elevator for boats in Scotland. My personal favorite is the elevator at the Mole in Turin which has a unique history.

Gerry Anderson is a cult TV figure because he took the unfashionably low tech world of puppetry and applied it with such skill and design flair to science fiction subjects that the results were highly original and imaginative. From the late sixties to late seventies, Dinky Toys produced die cast model toys of some of the more memorable Anderson craft from Joe 90, Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds, UFO and Space 1999. They are now highly collectible. Vote for your faves.

Identified Unidentified Flying Oobjects. A list of some real flying saucers, from the US and Soviet military, a video of the amazing Moller M200x, some flying saucer inspired architecture and a patent for a nuclear powered flying saucer from British Rail, bizarrely. Vote for your faves.

Neutrinos are extremely small and fast, so much so that to detect them you have to build really amazing experiments, such as the ones shown here. Japans Super-K is a 50,000 ton tank of water, half a mile underground, so clear that divers get vertigo. The latest South Pole neutrino telescopes, which point into the earths core rather than at the sky, have arrays of detectors which are much larger than the Empire State building and are frozen deep in the Antarctic ice core.

As gas prices increase so do oil profits and expensive kitsch. There is a correlation between increase money made from carbon deposits such as oil and the availability of horrible diamond or Swarovski encrusted objects. One form of carbon (oil) is swapped for another (diamonds), in exchange for silver (money). Damien Hirsts $100 Million diamond skull doesnt make this chart on account of its priceless irony. Similar lists have been done by others, but we couldnt resist an updated version.

Brain devices tend to look interesting an unusual, from passive, insect like EEG caps with trailing wires to interactive Brain Computer Interfaces. These devices range from largely useless toys to profoundly impressive technology used to control things such as prosthetic limbs. Here is an eclectic mix of our favorites, vote for yours.

Thanks to an intrepid group of urban explorers, some of the most magnificent hidden engineering triumphs that lie, hidden, beneath the streets of the worlds cities are being recorded and posted on underground (no pun intended) websites.Here are some of our favorite sewers and drains, from Paris tourist attraction sewers to Londons Escher-like, arched, Victorian Gothic drains, to still working ancient Roman systems and the infamous giant storm drains beneath Tokyo. Vote for your faves.

There is something inherently fascinating about survival kits. Here are some of our favorites, including those below ejector seats, some nicely designed kits from Japan and at Target, and those that we thought had interesting components. We will add to this list over time, send us suggestions of genuinely interesting or unusual, non-gimmick kits.

Sometimes, making things simpler makes things more complicated. Like telling the time on willfully minimalist watches. Watches can be minimalist and functional, but the examples here put form over function where the aesthetic gain may be questionable. There is one of these we actually really like, but we are not telling which.

Machines designed to smash large tough items into small bits, including a machine that eats trees whole, and yes, a real bone crusher, that makes fertilizer from animal bones.

This is a list of the worlds most beautiful airport terminals, based upon architectural merit rather than crude size, high tech bravado or structural gymnastics. For that reason the beautifully simple Dalaman terminal in Turkey makes the list, for example, but the design compromised Heathrow Terminal Five, does not. Vote for your faves.

Everything from cars to cargo ships can be nuclear powered, not just aircraft carriers or submarines,. If you want a really wild motor for your vehicle here are some real examples of nuclear engines. To avoid more well known examples, we have not included carriers and submarines in this chart, and we have tried to link to images of the actual engines. Vote for your faves.

In this kind of space, no one can hear you scream. Anechoic chambers use spiked walls to eliminate echoes, the end result might literally sound dull but the visual effect can be stunning, such as at the enormous anechoic hangar. Vote for your faves.

Continuous mining machines and Roadheaders are giant automated modern day mining machines that slice through rock at high speed and look like something from hell. Here are some of our favorite examples of these magnificent machines. Vote for your faves.

Climbing walls are both functionally and aesthetically fascinating. They often have beautiful abstract shapes reminiscent of Kurt Schwitters Merzbau or are just plain intricate and impressive.Included in our collection here are interactive musical climbing walls, enormous artificial ice towers, surreal climbing forms and a huge climbing wall inside a disused Texan grain silo. Vote for your faves.

What a tech bubble needs is bubble cars like these classics from the 40s to the present. Perhaps they should replace the Google bus with a 1958 Goggomobil?

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